illy: The story behind Italian coffee and traditions

illy is one of the most famous coffee brands in the world. It is not only one of the most consumed coffees in Italy, but also abroad. Gimbrere Legal spoke with Javier Valle Goyanes, Illy’s new General Manager for Spain and Portugal.

Javier Valle Goyanes has a degree in Business Administration and Management from the European Business School in Madrid, and has developed his professional career in international markets, initially in the sales area and later in functions of the in international markets, initially in the sales area and later on in functions of the General management in Spain, France, Mexico, Portugal and Italy. Started working for Coca-Cola Spain in the Horeca and Modern Trade channels, and continued for 18 years at L’Oreal. at L’Oreal.

First in Spain as Channel Director, and then he assumed commercial responsibility in France and Mexico. In 2013 he was appointed Managing Director of L’Oreal Portugal and from 2015 to 2018 he was Managing Director for Italy. After L’Oreal, he has been General Manager for Juul Labs in Spain and responsible for Revenue & Category Growth at Diageo for the whole of Southern Europe. Since this year he has been named as new general manager of illycaffè spa branch in Spain and Portugal.

  • What is your role at illy, your day-to-day work, what tasks do you perform?

Since my arrival in May 2022, we have been working on three fundamental axes. becoming a consumer-centric company, seeking to adapt our offer to the needs of our customers. The second pillar is the expansion of the distribution footprint, making illy accessible in each of the moments in which a consumer considers the consumption of a coffee, and the third pillar is the differentiation through our raw material, which is meticulously selected. Innovation in our production process guarantees the uniformity of quality and aroma of the unique 100% Arabica blend in all 140 countries in which we operate. Sustainability and ethics as a social enabler are values that have led us to receive the B Corp certification and to be part of the most ethical companies in the world certified by the Ethisphere Institute.

  • Could you tell us about illy’s beginnings as a brand, origins and history?

illycaffè is an Italian family business founded in Trieste in 1933 with the mission of always offering the best coffee in the world. illy is a global coffee brand and produces a unique 100% Arabica blend, combining nine of the best qualities in the world. Every day, more than eight million cups of illy coffee are served in more than 140 countries, in the best coffee shops, bars, restaurants and hotels, as well as in offices and at home. illy is considered “the flagship of espresso” thanks to radical innovations in the fields of coffee science and technology. The creation in 1991 of the “Ernesto illy Prize for quality espresso coffee” in Brazil has allowed illy to pioneer the direct purchase of green coffee at origin, share its knowledge of the best quality coffee and provide coffee growers with a higher price, all based on a mutual collaboration in accordance with the principles of sustainable development. Since 2016, with the “Ernesto illy espresso quality award”, the company has been recognizing the best coffee producers in the world, who, according to illy, have produced the best sustainable coffee. Since 2013, the company has been among the world’s most ethical companies. In 2019, it adopted the status of Benefit Company. for its commitment to achieving a sustainable business model integrating the interests of people and the environment. In 2021, illycaffè was the first Italian coffee company to obtain BCorp international certification for its commitment to meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance. The company has also founded the Universittà del Caffè with the aim of spreading coffee culture everywhere. It offers a complete theoretical and practical training for growers, baristas and coffee lovers, allowing them to deepen their knowledge of every aspect of the product. Made in Illy’ is based on beauty and art, intrinsic values of the brand, starting with its logo – designed by artist James Rosenquist – and the mugs that make up the illy Art Collection, decorated by more than 100 international artists. In 2021, the company employed 1,305 people and recorded a consolidated turnover of around 500 million euros. There are currently 205 illy-branded stores and businesses in more than 40 countries around the world.

In 2021, Rhône Capital acquired Illycaffè shares to support the company in its international growth.

  • How does the company function as a global brand and what is the challenge in taking the brand to other countries?

The challenges of illy’s internationalization are twofold: the adaptation of our product to the coffee transformation habits in each of the countries where we operate and the guarantee of the maximum quality and unalterability of our flavor and aroma. Since its creation, Illy has sought excellence in the roasting of its coffee, guaranteeing aroma and quality wherever it is consumed.

This is achieved through a production process that only takes place in our factory in Trieste with a unique and unalterable blend of nine origins. In addition, our pressurized packaging, which removes oxygen and injects nitrogen into the bottle, slows down the oxidation process and accentuates the essential aromas over time.

  • With so much competition nowadays in the coffee industry, how does the company or what differentials does it have to stay on trend and be the pioneer in the industry?

At illy we aspire to offer a luxury product at a reduced face value, the unit cost of a coffee. We work with our clients on the basis of their ability to transform excellent our product as well as their willingness to make coffee an additional element of differentiation in the experience they offer to their consumers. There are fundamentally two motivations for coffee consumption, social empowerment, coffee as the center of social gatherings and after-dinner conversations, and introspection, the use of coffee as a tool for reflection and abstraction.

In both cases, illy offers a unique product to be consumed alone or accompanied.

  • Italian coffee culture. What do Italians look for most when drinking coffee?

The main difference between the Italian consumer and the local one is the way to transform it. Here, 80% of consumers drink their coffee with milk or sugar, while in Italy it is mostly consumed on its own, a processing method that highlights the aromatic and differentiating nuances of our product in comparison with our competitors. However, the common point in all our consumers is the search for quality and service when drinking coffee. For many, the coffee break, whether at home, in the office or in a bar, is a moment of reflection, introspection, dialogue, or connection with others and the environment, and at illy we believe that the best way to enjoy these moments is with a high quality espresso that provides the perfect balance between flavor, body and aroma.

  • In your coffee shops here in Barcelona, do you have many Italian customers?

Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city where many Italian citizens live and visit. In the most central areas is where a greater number of illy coffee shops congregate and we observe what we call the “call effect”, where the territories are saturated with illy customers in a concentric manner, from the opening of an establishment we see how the brand expands organically driven by the demand of end consumers.

  • What are the upcoming developments and challenges for illy in Barcelona?

To continue expanding our distribution while guaranteeing a differentiated consumer experience, as well as to continue contributing to civil society through our sponsorship program for the contemporary art world through our relationship with major museums such as the Guggenheim, the Reina Sofia, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Círculo de Bellas Artes, the MACBA, and the Palau de la Música.

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